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Liver Cancer (cont.)

Outcomes of Liver Cancer Treatment

Unfortunately, besides surgery and transplantation, none of the above methods of treatment can be considered to be curative. Although physicians can perform many tests to discover and measure accurately several cancers in the liver, there are almost always more microscopic tumors than can be seen by any technique. Therefore, although local treatments such as radiofrequency ablation, cryoablation, and chemoembolization can kill tumors that are visible, "new" cancers -- ones that are microscopic and invisible at the time of treatment -- will eventually appear. Also, the cirrhosis and conditions that gave rise to the initial cancers will still be there even after successful treatment, so more cancers might actually develop later.

Most of these treatments for liver cancer are still being studied, so some may be offered only in a research study or clinical trial designed to see how well they work. Many liver cancer treatments are investigational or experimental, since there is no one standard approach that can be relied upon to work every time. Researchers continue to look for new drugs and procedures that will be safer, more effective, and can bring a better quality of life to people with any type of liver cancer. For most people, the best treatment will turn out to be a series of different techniques or drugs, finding what helps, and then moving on to the next therapy as it is needed.

It is important to keep in mind that all these techniques are limited by possible side effects, and therefore the decision about how to treat any particular person depends on a very thorough evaluation of the liver function, the state of the blood vessels, how far the tumors have spread, and how healthy the patient has been. Most of all, the patient, family, and physician need to discuss openly what they expect, what may be effective, and what will be safe, and what ultimately makes sense.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/19/2013

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